Saturday, May 24, 2008

UN Human Rights Council prepares for new session, new members

Un_flag_2 On Wednesday, the United Nations General Assembly elected 15 Member States to three-year terms on the 47-member Human Rights Council.  Ten States were effectively "re-elected:  Brazil, France, Gabon, Ghana, Japan, Pakistan, the Republic of Korea, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and Zambia were voted into seats vacated at the conclusion of their own three-year terms.

Meanwhile, five new States joined the Council.  Argentina and Chile take the Latin American and Caribbean seats formerly occupied by Guatemala and Peru; Burkina Faso replaces Gabon in the only one of the 13 African seats to change hands; Bahrain replaces Sri Lanka as one of the 13 Asian members; and Slovakia replaces Romania in one of the six seats reserved for Eastern European States.

The African and Latin American/Caribbean slots were uncontested.  In other regions, four States (Sri Lanka, Timor-Leste, Serbia, and Spain) failed to receive the 97-member majority required for election.

The new members will take their seats in the Council on June 20.

Before that date, the Council will conclude one more session in its current composition.  The Eighth Session of the Human Rights Council will begin on June 2 and conclude on June 18.  The Session will take up a number of issues, including:

(1) Follow-up and implementation of the 2001 Durban Declaration and Programme of Action on racism, racial discrimination, and xenophobia;
(2) Follow-up and implementation of the 1993 Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, which clarified the UN's position on the relationship among the various human rights instruments and organs;
(3) Assessing the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied territories;
(4) Assessing the human rights situation in Myanmar;
(5) Hearing reports from UN Special Rapporteurs and Representatives and making recommendations on the following topics:
  internally displaced persons, summary executions, judicial independence, poverty, transnational corporations, and trafficking;
(6) Discussing the current state of human rights of women; and
(7) Conducting "universal periodic review" of the human rights situation in 32 States.

On Thursday, the Council completed its Seventh Special Session, on the impact of soaring food prices on the right to food.

Established in 2006 by General Assembly Resolution 60/251, the Council replaced the UN Human Rights Commission as the principle UN body for human rights. For more information on the Eighth Session, see the UN's website on the meetings at  For more information on the Council itself, see its homepage at


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